Although you may have heard otherwise, FruitPunchLoverBoy is a band. Not the stereotypical boy band with a long-haired, mysterious drummer or way-too-cool-for-school guitarist, no, this is a band of creatives. A collective, one may say, centered around a larger-than-life voice. This voice is able to ferry you through the realm of emotions – from the bouncy feelings of being in love to the sinking feelings of loneliness. This voice belongs to Christian Johnson, the pulse of FruitPunchLoverBoy and the glue that sticks these creatives together.
I arrived at Zak Khan’s apartment in downtown Minneapolis curious. Curious where I was going to park, curious who Zak was, and questioning whether I’d remember how to set up the 40-pound bag of audio equipment I had with me. Thankfully, Christian, Zak (his producer), and Papa, another local artist and frequent collaborator, had parking all figured out for me. They ran out from the warmth of the apartment building into Minnesota’s winter to greet me and lend me Christian’s parking pass.
I followed the three of them as they led me, laughing and energetic, through the apartment building. Another character, Murad, a fine artist and future director of FPLB’s first music video, completed the group when he showed up to Zak’s apartment door at the same time as we did. I was intrigued when Christian suggested we do the interview here – it’s a special thing to be let into a person’s creative space, and as soon as I walked through the door, I felt the vibe. A vibe that said: Welcome, you can be yourself here.
It’s a small, one-bedroom apartment. There’s the kitchen where Zak makes tea for everyone; the living room where I set up my audio equipment; and in the corner, there’s a room. Its walls are filled from head to toe with album covers: some I recognize, and others I stare at for a while. There are guitars standing up straight, waiting to be held, and a computer in the middle of it all holds onto their creations. This is the studio, where instruments are picked up on instinct and freestyles are recorded. Where this group of friends spends long nights inspiring and critiquing each other under the mantra, “If you don’t try it, you’ll never know.”
This experimental theme is present in FPLB’s tracks. Few are available on the internet now, but don’t let that fool you – these guys are jamming out to unreleased sounds, gems they keep hidden for themselves. Of course, that leaves people like me hungry for more. Christian told me he thinks fans enjoy coming to their shows because they know they’re getting an exclusive product. Most of FruitPunchLoverBoy’s sets are full of unreleased tracks, creating that same environment of discovery for their audience as they have with each other in the studio. I can’t help but think this is a conscious nod to their creative process. Zak Khan tells me during the interview, “Our creations have value outside of it being the thing that we present to the wider public, like what we put on streaming or our social [media].” They create for themselves, a habit some might call the test of a true artist.
Now that you know you’ll have to attend a FruitPunchLoverBoy show to get the whole meal, let us dive into a track that they have released to the world. “Smoke Out The Garden” is a funky, playful bop that takes you back to long summer nights with the ones you love. This track showcases the art of collaboration and the value of experimentation. While listening to “Smoke Out The Garden,” you can float away in the Funkadelic guitar chords Zak Kahn plays, and be brought back to earth by Christian’s vocals, creating a euphoric experience you’ll want to listen to on repeat. Not only do I rock with the beat, but Christian’s lyrics are unique and playful. The words, “Early morning cream in my coffee, mixin’ our laundry, playing old songs, I wash these scars with love from your faucet, love from your pocket, love in my mosh pit,” leave me all smiles. They evoke pure pleasure, the kind you feel when the person you love walks into a room full of people and, eyes locked onto yours, comes straight towards you.
I asked Christian where he gets his inspiration. He said he pulls inspiration from all around him, whether that be deep conversations among friends, interactions he observes in the world, or the solitude of driving in the car, where the Voice Memos app on his phone is always ready to capture the bars that materialize out of thin air. The last scenario is how the second half of “Smoke Out The Garden” came to be – “It was just like a pull over voice note,” Christian told me with a laugh. The track was a year in the making, and one night, with a combination of Christian’s voice memo and a beat that had almost been forgotten, it happened. The puzzle pieces fit.
Listening to “Smoke Out The Garden,” I am impressed by FPLB’s ability to pull many different sounds into one cohesive creation. This, I feel, is a testament to Christian’s innate ability to pull together many different people from various walks of life.
This evening (Saturday, Jan. 24) at 6:30 p.m., FruitPunchLoverBoy will be performing at First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2019, among a great line up of other local talent including: Green/Blue, Loki’s Folly, Mae Simpson, Muun Bato, Nur-D, and Under Violet. Christian didn’t remember where he was when the news came that he would be performing, but he did remember texting Zak Khan and Kwey right afterward. After all, these two helped produce FPLB tracks late into the night, and they’ll be on stage with Christian. All of them are excited to showcase unreleased material, and they’ll use this momentum to complete FruitPunchLoverBoy’s first album (release date TBD).
There’s a lot cooking in the stu with these guys, and after the interview, they even let me have a taste of what’s in the works! I assure you, keep an ear out: FruitPunchLoverBoy the band isn’t planning on going anywhere. They have a lot of love for Minnesota, the place that brought them together, and the land that continues to inspire.